Disclaimer: The below characters belong to the wonderful writers of Merlin and, of course, the BBC
A/N: This is only my second Merlin fic, and my first one which I hope will be longer. At the moment, I'm not quite sure if I should continue this, or how I should continue this. So any reviews would be most appreciated. Thank you!
"Ffaglu!" The strange word cut through Arthur harshly, as the young Prince paused; his hand raised, inches from Merlin's door, about to knock. Through the crack in the door he could see everything and in the moment suddenly knew everything. He'd only come down to visit Merlin on his manservant's day off, to apologise as he needed work done on his armour. Arthur knew Merlin wouldn't have minded, which was why he had come. But now, seeing and hearing what he thought he never would, made him wish he had never left his bedchamber.
"Ffaglu!" Merlin repeated the word and watched almost gleefully as another feather, he was holding, burst into flames, never touching him once. Arthur wanted to turn, run and forget this, but deep down he knew he couldn't ignore it.
Unable to tear his eyes away, Arthur thought how this was possible. This was Merlin he was watching, resident idiot of Camelot. How could Merlin be a sorcerer? Arthur had trusted him with his own life. His father had trusted Merlin. Gaius had trusted Merlin. They all had. But did they know? Thoughts whizzed through Arthur's head, none of them making sense.
Although Arthur had not made a sound, Merlin suddenly spun around to look directly at the Prince. Shock showed on his face at Arthur's presence and the burnt crisp of the feather plummeted to the ground as though it were a rock.
"Arthur…" Merlin's voice broke, at the shock of being discovered. "I can expl-" He paused, unsure whether or not to continue, as Arthur pushed the door open and entered the small room.
There was a moment where neither of them spoke. Merlin remained still and barely breathing. In many ways he felt relief. He secret was out. The one thing which had been haunting him for so long; eating away at him as it sat there, unable to be let out, was now free. He only wished the situation was different. Merlin had always imagined telling Arthur himself, when he was ready. He had never wanted the Prince to discover him like this. He had no idea how Arthur would react, and he feared that.
"You have nothing to explain." Arthur told him, breaking the silence in a voice which was not as unkind as Merlin expected.
"But, Arthur... Sire." Merlin corrected himself and leapt up off his bed, his eyes shining with some unknown emotion; Arthur could not tell.
"I know what I saw, Merlin! Why did you not tell me?" Arthur cried and Merlin suspected he was more upset at not being told than anything else.
Merlin did not reply. He didn't know what to say. Before he could remotely begin to piece something together, Arthur, in a flurry of metal, drew his sword. "Arthur…" Merlin found his voice. "Please I don't know what you're thinking. But let me explain, please! I know how this may look, but you have to trust me. I'd never do anything to betray you or your father or the Kingdom of Camelot, surely you know that! I know you have almost every right to kill me, but don't, please. If you did, you'd never forgive yourself."
"Stop drivelling, you idiot." Arthur demanded, with a shake of his head. "You know sorcery is forbidden here. You know I have every right to kill you." And he did. They both knew the law, which Uther had enforced.
"Arthur, please. It's honestly not what it looks like." Merlin begged, wishing his friend would believe him. He wanted to say something which could convince Arthur, but all he could come up with involved mentioning Gaius. He dared not mention his carer's name; Merlin didn't want him to receive any punishment for knowing. "Besides, I can't help being what I am."
Arthur shook his head, not quite knowing how to respond. "I should run you through with my sword for this and you know it." Merlin's eyes widened in shock, and Arthur felt a twinge of guilt. Another moment passed in silence before Merlin bowed his head in defeat.
"Then do it." Merlin replied to Arthur comment, his eyes never leaving the Prince's face. Arthur regarded the scene before him. His submitting servant, always so trusting and innocent. How could be even consider maiming him? Arthur squeezed his eyes shut, in decision, before slowly sliding his sword back into its sheath.
"I never could." Arthur told Merlin, simply.
"What!?" Merlin blurted, without thought. Arthur raised his eyebrows at the address and Merlin instantly correctly himself. "I... mean... Pardon, Sire?"
Arthur sniggered and was amazed to find Merlin had the courage to shoot him a glare. "I said I never could." Arthur repeated.
Merlin frowned as if not fully understanding. He was a mere servant. A mere servant who had lied to his Prince, gone behind his back and practised a forbidden art. Why was Arthur refusing to take action? He regarded Arthur as a great friend, was it possible that Arthur, himself, regarded Merlin as more than just a servant, possibly a friend too? Could Merlin expect that from Arthur? After all he had changed a lot from the prat he first met when he arrived in Camelot?
"Why, Sire?" Merlin asked. "You don't mean to tell the King?" A second of true fear passed through him at the thought.
"Of course not!" Arthur said, shocked that Merlin had suggested it.
"But why?" Merlin said, before Arthur had the chance to draw breath and continue.
"Let me answer, Merlin." Arthur said. "The way you act sometimes, I would have thought you'd forgotten that I was Prince."
"Sorry." Merlin muttered and remained silent, telling Arthur to go on.
"I've always suspected. The times I've nearly died and the times I've always survived. When I was bitten by the Questing Beast?" Arthur didn't need to say anymore. "I know there is no cure for that. I'm not that naïve, I know the only way I could live was if another died in my place. Did you think I would not have read the myth?"
"Arthur..." Merlin began.
"I'm sorry, Merlin." Arthur apologised and Merlin was stunned into silence. "If only I had seen it more clearly then. I know you sacrificed yourself for me." Arthur said a look of true admiration in his eyes.
"I've told you before. I'm happy to be your servant until the day I die. And if that means dying so you can live, then I welcome that." Merlin said, fervently.
"No." Arthur shook his head half-heartedly. "You shouldn't say that. You are just as important as I am, so stoping thinking you are second rate. I'd be no where without you, and you know it. It's about time I showed you some appreciation." Arthur paused for a fraction of a second, "Friend." Merlin, for once couldn't think of a reply. Both of them knew that he was happy to sacrifice himself for the Prince and nothing Arthur could say was going to change that fact. "I owe so much to you, Merlin."
"I'm your servant; you owe me nothing." Merlin was about to protest, but any attempt at a response was drowned out by Arthur speaking again.
"I owe you enough to not tell."
"But you'd be going against your father." Merlin said, knowing that the subject had turned back to that of his magic. "If he ever found out..."
"He won't." Arthur said and Merlin, out of habit, raised a sceptical eyebrow. "I promise, he'll never find out."